Lafayette School Board Members Spar With Pat Cooper, Defund Thad Welch Again
LAFAYETTE, La. (KPEL) — Fireworks erupted once again Wednesday night between Lafayette Parish School Board members and Superintendent Dr. Pat Cooper after it was discovered that Cooper was still continuing to fund the salary of his special assistant, even though board members had defunded that position at a previous meeting.
Board members had stripped funding for Thad Welch, Cooper’s special assistant, following a dispute over whether his lack of a high school diploma disqualified him for the job.
The matter was brought to the attention of the board when, looking through a general fund budget revision, board member Tommy Angelle questioned why Welch’s $102,313 salary, even though eliminated as a line item during a previous meeting, was moved into a contingency fund, thus maintaining his salary.
The explanation from Chief Financial Officer Billy Guidry didn’t satisfy Angelle. “We revised the budget, and now it’s coming back,” Angelle said. “I would like not to see it back again.”
Board member Themi Chassion was more direct toward Cooper, questioning whether the superintendent was changing the budget without board approval.
“What you’ve done again, you’ve just circumvented the process,” Chassion said.
“As petty as this seems,” he continued, “this goes to an inherent issue some board members have with the superintendent. It’s in being honest–being factual with us.”
Cooper asserted, as he had several times before, that only he had the authority to fire Welch, and if board members chose to defund the contingency cost center, other budget areas would be found to maintain Welch’s salary.
The board ultimately voted against the budget revision.
Carencro High School Situation
The situation at Carencro High School, in which a student teacher and a full-time teacher were escorted off campus and removed from their positions shortly after speaking out about discipline problems at two separate school board meetings, was also brought up again.
Jamal Taylor, the full-time teacher, railed against Cooper and his administration during the public comments portion of the meeting, accusing Cooper of fostering a culture of fear among teachers in which speaking out against the administration would be returned with retribution.
“I was not fired,” Taylor said. “I resigned because I refuse to work for a demagogue.”
Taylor called for an investigation into the “Carencro zone,” including the academic officer, Assistant Superintendent Sandra Billeaudeau, and Cooper.